Your fabulous fabric stash: 2 tips for using it to its full potential

Fabric-stashSome people just don’t understand.

Building a fabric stash requires thorough contemplation and careful consideration.

Shop to shop, show to show, online store to online store, you’ve curated a collection of fabric that’s so very . . . you.

But are you using your fabric stash to its fullest potential?

Designer Tonya Alexander understands us stash builders—depending on the day, our stashes can cast either sunshine or shadows on our quilting life! Tonya’s book Stash Lab is an ode to her relationship with her stash, and in her book you’ll discover that she has the same hopes for her stash as you do for yours: to experiment with new ideas, to incorporate a wide variety of fabrics into projects, and to use up beloved fabric and move it out—to make room for more.

In Stash Lab, Tonya reveals two ways that she quickly (and happily) depletes her stash: scrappy backings and bindings. Heed Tonya’s advice below when choosing stash fabrics for your quilt backs and bindings—after all, she has “lab”-tested results!

Using your fabric stash: pretty and practical backings and bindings
Excerpted from Stash Lab by Tonya Alexander

Tonya AlexanderStash fabrics aren’t just for quilt tops. You can put them to good use in other ways. Take, for instance, pieced backs. Wide backing fabrics are nice, but the back of your quilt is also an ideal place to use up your stash. Fabrics don’t even have to be used in a quilt top. It’s an opportunity to creatively piece odd, random fabrics together for a unique and interesting backing. Here are my suggestions for piecing your quilt backs from stash fabrics.
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1. Make sure the seams on the back do not land on what will become fold lines of the quilt. I tend to fold things the same way, whether it’s towels, quilts, or bed sheets, so I try not to have backing seams directly on the fold lines. Think about how you fold your quilts, whether they’re on a shelf, in a drawer, or on the back of the couch.

This pieced backing (right) is on the back of Tonya’s Leaf Pile quilt in
Stash Lab.

2. Consider how the project will be quilted. For hand quilting or special quilting motifs that you want to show up well on the back, choose solids or subtle prints with light patterning. Conversely, when practicing free-motion designs, prints with a busy pattern or design will hide a world of imperfect stitches.

3. Think about thread color. For machine quilting, it’s best to match the bobbin thread to the top thread, so choose fabrics that will blend well with the thread. Matching top and bottom threads will help disguise any tension issues.

Scrappy bindings. A scrappy binding can add the perfect finishing touch to a scrappy quilt. I prefer binding cut from 2½"-wide strips. This is a standard size (and the width of Jelly Rolls), so I always have plenty to choose from.

Tonya used a scrappy binding on “Sunny Side Up,” another quilt pattern featured in
Stash Lab.

Stash-Lab-cheat-sheetOf course, Tonya doesn’t use her stash fabrics only behind and around her quilt tops: Stash Lab is chock-full of colorful, stash-friendly quilt tops too! Her three stash-sewing formulas (shown at right) will help you choose the perfect stash fabrics for each pattern, including these beauties:

Kaffe’s Garden at Night

The Big Spin

Brown Can Be Bright

See more scrap-happy quilts from Stash Lab >

Calling all quilters: try this stash challenge!


Have you ever wondered what a project would look like made with YOUR style of fabrics, from your very own fabric stash? Here’s your chance to get creative and make a project all your own! Join the #mystashmystyle contest for the chance to stretch your creative wings AND win fun prizes too. Visit the blogs of Tonya Alexander and Jenifer Gaston (author of Primitive Style) for details. Then join in the fun!

What’s your stash style: casual country colors, fun pictorial fabrics, graphic modern prints? Tell us in the comments!

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